Kawarau Gibbston becomes the world's newest internationally-certified Dark Sky Park

3 minutes read
Posted 9 May, 2024
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DarkSky International has announced the certification of Kawarau Gibbston as an International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) and recognises Kawarau Gibbston Dark Sky Park as a very special place on the planet. 

Protected by the geography of gorges and high mountains, the Kawarau Gibbston Dark Sky Park is one of the few places on Earth where the awe-inspiring structure and richness of central regions of the Milky Way galaxy, Magellanic Clouds, and the Aurora Australis are readily seen and photographed.



The Kawarau Gibbston Dark Sky Park comprises 25 square kilometers, including the Gibbston Character Zone (GCZ) and the Gibbston Valley Resort Zone (GVRZ). It is located between Queenstown and Cromwell.

The Kawarau Gibbston Dark Sky Park sits only behind Rakiura/Stewart Island Dark Sky Sanctuary as the closest internationally certified Dark Sky Place in the world to the southern geomagnetic (auroral) pole.  

It is the first to be designated in the Queenstown-Lakes District. Situated within a 30-minute drive from the airport, the certification of the Park opens up new opportunities for dark sky tourism in the region. 

"We are excited to add another New Zealand site to the International Dark Sky Places program, celebrating stewardship efforts of the Character and Resort Zones and the Queenstown-Lakes District Council. Such certifications help mitigate development impacts, ensuring residents and visitors can enjoy naturally dark skies for years to come.

These zones have diligently protected rural ecology, viticulture, and the pristine night sky. We look forward to collaborating with Gibbston Community Association advocates to enhance dark sky protections in the region further," commented Amber Harrison, Dark Sky Places Program Manager.
The application for certification was developed by the Gibbston Community Association (GCA) following unanimous community approval at the June 2023 AGM. 

A key factor in the application's success was the existing framework to protect the night sky quality in the GCZ and the GVRZ.

Mayor Glyn Lewers welcomed the award of Dark Sky Park status saying "I am delighted that we can announce the creation of the Kawarau Gibbston Dark Sky Park, the first dark sky place in the region.

It is particularly pleasing that the success of this application is founded on the Council's lighting strategies and policies as a means to protect and promote this increasingly valuable natural resource."   

Rose Cross, chair of the Gibbston Community Association added, "The Gibbston Community Association was founded in 1999 with the mission to protect, preserve, and promote the unique characteristics of Gibbston as an area of special character.

Today, 25 years on, we have taken the next step in that endeavour"

The creation of the Kawarau Gibbston Dark Sky Park is the beginning of an exciting new phase for the region.

Regular public dark sky events will be held in the park, and the certification will help reinforce dark skies as an important cultural resource, including the region's Matariki celebrations.

Professor Brian Boyle (GCA Dark Sky lead) notes that the next steps will include looking to expand the dark sky status into the Remarkables and Pisa conservation areas, as well as the neighbouring communities including Cardrona, Bannockburn, and Lowburn.

About the International Dark Sky Places Program: 

Founded in 2001, the International Dark Sky Places Program is a non-regulatory and voluntary program encouraging communities, parks, and protected areas worldwide to preserve and protect dark sites through effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and public education.

When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, impact human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and block our view and connection to the universe. 

Kawarau Gibbston Dark Sky Park now joins more than 210 places that have demonstrated robust community support for dark sky advocacy and strive to protect the night from light pollution. Learn more by visiting www.darksky.org/conservation/idsp.


About DarkSky International:

The mission of DarkSky is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. Learn more at darksky.org


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